5 YA Must-Reads for Politically Aware Teens

The election may be over, but the time to be a politically engaged young person is just beginning. If the state of U.S. politics has given you the itch to get out there and work toward positive change (or to become an international spy with a score to settle and a dark secret—either way), here are some books that just might pique your interest!

The Wrong Side of Right, by Jenn Marie Thorne
This book has a simple premise: 16-year-old Kate Quinn has lost her mom in a car accident. It also has a simple twist: turns out the father she never knew is the Republican presidential candidate. Suddenly Kate finds herself thrust into the limelight, juggling public appearances and talking points and all manner of things she never knew a person could juggle. Plus, she doesn’t exactly agree with everything on her father’s political platform. And she may or may not be (but definitely is) becoming increasingly attracted to the teenage son of her father’s competitor, the incumbent president of the United States. What results is a very heartfelt, very real look at the political process through the eyes of a bold young heroine just looking to belong somewhere.

A Mad, Wicked Folly, by Sharon Biggs Waller
I will never be done being excited about suffragette novels. If the Women’s March had you feeling extra thankful for people like Susan B. Anthony and Margaret Sanger, check out this read featuring the fictional but no less formidable Vicky Darling, an aspiring artist in the early 20th century. She doesn’t want to become some wealthy man’s pretty wife. What she wants is to go to art school, and if she has to pose nude to do it, well, that’s a risk she’s willing to take. It’s a risk that gets her kicked out of boarding school and shipped back to London in disgrace, but it’s also one that puts her right in the middle of women’s suffrage. I spent 40% of this book being angry about things like how few rights women had (spoiler alert: it was zero), but it was the same kind of righteous fury that fueled the fires of a movement that’s no less crucial today than it was when it began.

The Fixer, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Have you ever watched House of Cards? Of course you have, you’re a human being living in the year 2017. This is kind of like that, but with fewer intense Kevin Spacey vibes. Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick is making the leap from ranch life with her grandfather to the political intrigue and endless drama of Washington, D.C. She moves in with her estranged sister, Ivy, who’s known around these parts as a problem solver. She also begins attending Hardwicke Academy, a school for the children of the political elite, where she becomes embroiled in a number of high-stakes scandals with twists you absolutely will not see coming. (And that’s from someone who DOES watch House of Cards. Season two, I’m looking at you.)

My Life Next Door, by Huntley Fitzpatrick
As far as romances set against the backdrop of state-level politics go, this one’s pretty fantastic. Samantha Reed’s mom is a single parent and high-ranking politician. As a result, Sam has always been intrigued by the Garrett family next door. Their big, messy lifestyle serves as quite the contrast to Sam’s rigidly structured, no-nonsense one. The thing that really resonates with her, however, is the fact that they all seem so close and happy. She’s not allowed to hang around with them—her mom has always said the Garretts are low-class—but when she and 17-year-old Jase Garrett share a rooftop conversation and really hit it off, well, that rule gets thrown out the window. Sam finds herself drawn into their way of life—but the downside is that Jase gets drawn into hers, too.

Wide Awake, by David Levithan
You should read this book only if you like 1) wonderfully relatable characters and 2) speculative fiction about history in the making. Seventeen-year-old Duncan has spent the last few months campaigning with his boyfriend, Jimmy. Now, it looks like their efforts are paying off: America has finally elected its first gay, Jewish president. But when a recount is demanded in Kansas and voters are being disenfranchised left, right, and center, things take a turn for the worse. Duncan sets off at once to join the thousands-strong crowd currently flocking to Kansas to show their support. But between Duncan’s now-rocky relationship with Jimmy and the ongoing protest movement from the opposition party, drama abounds in what is ultimately a tale of life, love, and hope in the face of political turmoil.

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